Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Depression - Round Two

What I'm about to share with you I find to be very personal but I want to share this with you to give you a peak of what it can be like for someone with depression and suicidal thoughts. Keep in mind that every individual with depression has a different story so what I experienced doesn't mean everyone with depression has the same experience or symptoms. There can be people who have milder forms of depression and potentially have no anxiety symptoms at all. Writing about my experience helps me in getting better and hopefully fights the stigma of not talking about it. 

Please note when I started writing this post I wasn't feeling well. I stopped writing and came back to this post about 3 weeks later. I'm feeling much better now and I'm getting stronger. Depression is biological, psychological and sociological. The best course for treatment is medication and tfherapy.


I've been wanting to write for a while now and as I write this I am not feeling well. I haven't been feeling well for a while (since late August, early September). When I say not feeling well I mean sliding down the depression slope. This time, it feels different than my first bout with depression that started in November 2011. This time it's less surprising because I have a better idea of how I may feel when I have a suicidal thought. This time around it has been different in that I have more anxiety that comes along with it. One time in the car and another time at home when I was by myself. In both instances, I reached out to my support people (husband, psychiatrist, psychologist, friend). My suicidal thoughts would overtake me while at the same time having a huge wave of anxiety. It was like two things were competing in my brain. My brain could only think about ending the inner pain (depression) with killing myself. Ironically depression for many is the thought of death being the only answer. While this is happening anxiety can also be happening simultaneously. The anxiety would come in the form of two things. One being that I need to quickly find a way to kill myself and or find a way to get help from someone (not being alone because I don't trust myself to not end my life). It's this internal struggle between living and dying happening at the same time for me. The way to safety is to get out of my head and contact someone. 

In late August I was doing a lot of biking and was feeling good after a patch of the 'blues' (mild depression). I rely on the exercise endorphins as part of my treatment for depression. I was spending more time outside with our dog, James. On one of these occasions, we were playing fetch. I went to pick up the tennis ball and as I was standing up, 85 lbs of frolic came running towards me. Jame's head met with the side of mine. My ears were ringing and my stomach was ready to evict the food I ate earlier. I tried to get in the house as quickly as possible in case I passed out. My head hurt for a few weeks after that incident due to having a concussion (now I'm a little more careful when I play fetch with the dog - perhaps I should start wearing a helmet?). The doctor told me no vigorous exercise for 3 weeks and if my head hurt when I did something (reading for example) then don't do it and rest before trying again. This was the worst news for me because I always feel great when I work out and I felt like I was finally coming back from a mild depression at that point. Exercise is a key component to my treatment for depression. This was difficult for me to accept being inactive and still. First, it was one step forward, two steps back and then falling backward down the depression slope with no chance of stopping the fall.

James Bone - this picture was taken when he was 8 months old.

When I think back and compare this depression episode with the one in 2011, they are one in the same and yet also different. I think about how my short term memory has been flushed down the toilette (common with depression). Many times I completely forget what I am talking about mid sentence in a conversation. Having no short term memory can be very embarrassing! It's very difficult to multitask and concentrate. I can't cook in the kitchen and keep track of the simplest of conversations. If my husband asks me a question forget about it. My brain is on overload and I get flustered very easily. Sometimes in social situations, it takes a lot of work to look or appear normal and follow a conversation. I've been in situations where I want to converse but can't think of anything to say or I feel so tired or low that it's physically hard to smile or keep my eyes open (gravity has been turned up and it feels like there are weights on my eyelids and my face). 
Names of people I've known for a while slip from my memory. About two months ago I asked a friend to go to see a matinee with me. There was a movie I wanted to see that had just come out. We got to the theater and waited in line to buy our tickets. There was one person in front of me. I started to go into a panic as I couldn't remember what the name of the movie was we were seeing. I was frantically trying to find a movie poster or the name of the movie on the digital board to jog my memory. No such luck so I rather embarrassingly asked my friend what movie we were seeing. In my head, I was freaking out but to look at me I'm just another person standing in line. All I could think of at the time was my friend must think I'm a total flake and a nut (I think she knew I had depression but at the time I don't think she new about having little if any short term memory at that point). I then had to explain to her that my short term memory isn't working. She was very kind and I was so embarrassed. It's difficult because if someone doesn't know that you even have depression (in addition to not knowing about the symptoms) you appear to be 'flaky' at times. Thankfully, a crisis was averted at the counter. I mentioned this incident to my psychiatrist and he asked: "what movie did you see ?" My response: "I don't remember the name of it". :-)

I never fully understood what it meant for someone to have depression until 2011. To some degree, I've had mild - moderate depression since my teens. I never realized that until many years later into my adulthood. I always thought the way I felt was how everyone else felt. I remember never understanding how my fellow classmates could go to school, do homework and afterschool activities. For example, I joined the swim team in middle school or high school? and as soon as practice was over I went straight to bed (without doing my homework). That venture lasted for two weeks and then I quit. I remember just wanting to do nothing and anything above that required so much effort.  I would look at other students and ask myself what was it that they had to be able to go to school and do after school activities? I can't remember how many clubs I would try to join and then I would just drop out. Everything felt energy draining. I was in survival mode.

Depression affects people differently and there are different levels of depression (mild, moderate, major) with the worst leading to thoughts of suicide. Some people may have depression where they can't get out of bed most of the time in addition to other possible ailments such as no short term memory, excessive sleep or not enough sleep, no eating or eating too much, loss of interest in things they once enjoyed. Depression varies by on the individual and symptoms last longer than two weeks in order to be diagnosed with depression. Some people with depression will have thoughts of suicide and believe the only way to stop the internal pain is to die. For me during this current depression episode, my symptoms have been all over the map. For example, I will sometimes force myself to go out even though I really would rather stay in bed. What happens next is a gamble. I will either feel surprisingly energized when interacting socially or I will feel 100% drained and can't even fake a smile. Good days feel 'normal' in that I can do what I need to during the day and I feel fine and not exhausted. When I have a day where I do more than I should I am beyond mentally exhausted and have no patience for anyone. My kids and husband might say I'm 'grouchy' sometimes. As of right now I've had many normal days in a row and I'm continuing to do everything I can to help myself heal and maintain a balanced life as much as possible (enough rest, exercise, proper nutrition, self-care, setting small goals). 

Anxiety is also a factor in my depression. I would say I'm 85% depression 15% anxiety (this varies by individual). My anxiety kicks into high gear when my short term memory is ever present of if I'm in major depression and I have suicidal thoughts (thankfully no serious thoughts in the past several weeks). I'm climbing my way out of the depression hole and I can feel the results of all my efforts. One step at a time!

I hope my writing has helped you either in understanding more about depression or if you suffer from depression you feel a little less alone. 



Some great resources about Depression!



Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky about the biology and psychology of depression.

"Stanford Professor Robert Sapolsky, posits that depression is the most damaging disease that you can experience. Right now it is the number four cause of disability in the US and it is becoming more common. Sapolsky states that depression is as real of a biological disease as is diabetes."





TEDEd







National Alliance on Mental Illness
http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression


Suicide Prevention Lifeline
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ 

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